KNOWING THE TIME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-16-55 7:30 p.m.
This morning, in the first part of the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Romans; tonight, in the latter part of the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Romans. And I hope that tonight you’ll just listen so prayerfully and earnestly for the message tonight concerns the whole method of the interpretation of the Word of God. In the eleventh verse, thirteenth chapter of Romans: Knowing The Time. That’s my text:
Knowing the time that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, let us put on the armor of light.
And let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Knowing the time, that it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand" [Romans 13:11-12a]. Just what is that? Well, "what is that" is going to be the message tonight, and the thing revolves around the interpretation of the whole Book and revelation of God.
What the preacher does: he stands before the people, and he proclaims God’s message to the people. He takes God’s Word, and he applies it to the generation, and to the congregation, and to the people among whom God hath raised him a minister and a prophet of the Word. So when a preacher stands up to preach, he stands there to proclaim to the people the Word and the will of God. Now in this Bible, you have many, many prophecies; from the beginning of it to the end of it, time and time and time again, you have prophēteÃa, "speaking forths." Not only in the sense of exhortation, addressing God’s Word to the will of a man that he give his life to God and follow the will of God, but you have many, many prophecies in the sense of the unveiling and apocalypse: what is to happen. And Paul is making an appeal here that we walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envy, because "knowing the time, it is high time to awake out of our sleep and indifference, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent and the day is at hand" [Romans 13:11-12a].
What kind of a day is that? Well, I have taken out of many, many, many, many preachers’ messages. I have taken some that are typical as the men look ahead and as they preach to their people about the future of this world and what lies ahead: "the night is far spent, the day is at hand" [Romans 13:12a]. Is that to be a day of tribulation? Is it to be a day of foreboding? Is it to be a day of the great judgments of God? Is it to be a day of the great appearing of the Lord, or is it to be the day of the conversion of the world to Christ? Is it to be the day of peace? Is it to be a day of universal joy and pleasure and gladness? What kind of a day is that in the light of which Paul says, "Our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us therefore prepare and be ready"? [Romans 13:11b-12a]
All right. There is a minister. He was a pastor. Well, I’ll just call his name. His name is [Alanson] Hartpence, and he was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. And at the end of 1858 – I copy out of his sermon, now listen to this illustrious and scholarly divine as he preaches at the end of 1858: "The night of earth’s mental and moral darkness is certainly passing away. The Morning Star is in the moral sky. Since man’s creation, a night of five thousand eight hundred sixty years." He’s got it down to a fine point: since man’s creation, we are just here five thousand eight hundred sixty years.
Since man’s creation that night has rolled away. Not ’til the present century could Zion’s watchmen see that the night is far spent. Glance at the signs of progress during the last fifty years. What has been done for man’s material and temporal interests! What progress and science and art! What expansion and increase in wealth and commerce! How steam and electricity minister to human wants and happiness! What facilities for trade and travel! As the night rolls on, we see uncommon tendencies to a general amelioration of man’s condition. The faith of all Christendom is going to work. Ignorance and despotism are waning. The cross makes the crescent give way before the march of a spiritual and pure Christianity.
And at this very moment, for every one convert we make in Africa and in the Muslim world, the Muslim makes ten! He says: "The cross makes the crescent give way before the march of a spiritual and pure Christianity."
What hath God wrought even in the past year? Some of the most memorable events in the world’s history ever recorded happened in 1858. In view of them, the church can almost anticipate the song of final triumph: "Hallelujah, salvation and glory and honor and power unto the Lord our God!" The great events of the year seem to converge upon one grand object: the overthrow of idolatry and unbelief, and the rapid spread of a pure Christianity over the globe.
[Alanson Hartpence, "The Night is Far Spent," A Sermon preached in the First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, TN, January 2, 1859]
The rebellion in the British Isles, you look at this, "The rebellion in the British Isles:" what was that rebellion? It was the attempt of a colonial-oppressed people to throw off the yoke of a foreign dictator and to rise to their own national independence. Now, look at him:
The rebellion in the British Isles, bursting like a storm over that vast empire, threatening to destroy English sway there, has been subdued, and treaties establishing British rule more firmly in Asia and China have sent a peon of praise and thanksgiving throughout the civilized world.
Then he quotes old China too:
[Old China, too,] is coming God’s mercy to adore
And beauteous isles are shouting – "Jesus for evermore."
Hallelujah! The British Empire and the overthrow of the independence movement in India, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Look at electricity, and look at steam and look at all of the gadgets God has given us. The millennium is here – 1858.
Ah before I go to the next period, [Alfred] Nobel, the great Swedish inventor, Nobel said – Nobel died in 1896 – Nobel said: "There will never be war, never again, never any more war. Absolutely," he said, "by this invention of dynamite, I have made war so terrible and so awful that men will never fight again. They’ll be afraid of such awful destructiveness" [quoted in The Military Quotation Book, James Charlton, 2002, p. 114 ]. That’s what Nobel said, and he gave his peace prize – the Nobel Peace Prize – in honor and in memory of the destructive power of dynamite saying we would never have any war anymore. That’s in 1896.
Somebody prophesied, "If they ever invent – if they ever discover atomic fission and are able to make nuclear material react to a man’s word, the first use of atomic fission will be an atomic bomb." That was said a long time ago.
All right. We come now to another period. This is the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Philadelphia in 1911. Dr. John Clifford, the illustrious Baptist minister of London, England, was the president. At that great Congress, they elected Robert Stuart McArthur, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church of New York City, the following president; and they met in Dr. Russell H. Conwell’s church – the man who made that great lecture on "Acres of Diamonds." They met in Russell Conwell’s church, the Baptist Temple Church in Philadelphia. Dr. Conwell said in his welcoming address in 1911 to the Baptist World Congress, "We have our dear brethren here from Russia. God bless them every one. These brethren are sent back from this convention to Russia that they may have Christ going with them everywhere." Amen.
And Dr. John Clifford from London said, "You have referred, Dr. Augustus Strong our great theologian, you have referred, Dr. Strong, to my friend of twenty years, David Lloyd George," then prime minister of the British Empire. "God has raised him up a prophet statesmen. Is not our outlook bright? The freedom we possess today shall be everybody’s possession, and the justice which rules in our land shall rule in all lands." Amen.
Now, Reverend J. G. Laymen of Germany. Germany reports: "The report not only from Germany but also from Bulgaria and Estonia and Lithuania and Poland and Russia and Romania means the spreading of the gospel is a marvel in my eyes, and of these my German brethren have here to find what blessings that flowed all the way to Europe." Amen – 1911.
And Mr. A. U. Kawaguchi of Japan, Kawaguchi of Japan, said, "A few days ago, the Japanese minister at Washington said that there had been Wars of the Roses, but pointing to the Stars and Stripes of America and to the Sun flag of Japan he said that there had never been war between the Stars and the Sun. There will not be war between the sun flag and the flags of the nations represented here. Japan, the country which has astonished the world because of her recent progress, is the country where civil and religious liberty reigns." Amen.
And W. E. Hatcher who wrote that biography of John Jasper. He’s pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia. The last sentence of his glorious address was, "The Baptists of the South are working together in full confidence in the conquest of the world for Christ."
In 1911, had some modern Amos stood up at that world Congress in 1911, and had that modern Amos said, "Three years from now, and the world will be plunged into the bloodiest war it has ever known; and ten years after that, the world will be plunged into the most degrading depression it has ever known; and two years after that, the world will be plunged into the most bloody and terrible war the world has ever known; and five years after that, Korea will be a bloody battlefield for America and the nation of the Orient called China; and we face from thenceforward the fear and trepidation and trembling of heart of complete annihilation from hydrogen bombs, hell bombs." Had a modern Amos stood up in 1911 and said that, they would have said to that modern Amos, "Back to your sheep, back to your sycamore trees, back to Tekoa in the wilderness of Judea [Amos 1:1]. We are the harbingers of the glorious millennium, the conquest of the world for Christ."
Well, my old teacher: he’s dead now and so it won’t make any difference to him what I say. My old teacher – I had an illustrious teacher. I had an illustrious teacher. I was taught this stuff all of my life. Never was taught any other thing; never. My old, illustrious teacher was Dr. A. T. Robertson, the greatest Greek scholar we ever produced. I studied under him four years – majored in freshmen Greek, I guess, or something like that. He was an illustrious man. He was a wonderful teacher. I’m going to quote from the preface of his book, The New Citizenship, written back yonder after 1919. The preface of the book is the reaction of the author’s own mind to the new situation: "Victory has crowned the armies of America and her allies. The new day has dawned,World-peace has come, King Alcohol has been dethroned." We had passed the Eighteenth Amendment. "King Alcohol has been dethroned,The reign of the pot-house politician with his wrath and his greed are over" [The New Citizenship: The Christian Facing a New World Order, A.T. Robertson, 1919]. Hallelujah, the millennium has come.
Now, dear people, I could do that by the day and the hour and the year endlessly, endlessly. Well, what’s the matter with these men? Were they not holy men and devout men? Were they not prayerful men? Did they not love God? Did they not try to preach His truth? Yes, sir. Some of these men I have known like my old teacher. They were devout men; they were holy men. Well, what was the matter with them? There’s just one thing the matter with them, and that is this: when a man reads the Bible, he can read it with preconceived notions, and he can so twist its message and so turn its meaning until he refuses to let the Bible speak for itself.
Now, nobody in this world ever taught me the thing that I see here in the Bible. Nobody ever did. I was never taught it in my life. I never was. How come people to think I am what I am? I just started out preaching the Bible, and they’d go away and say, "Why, listen to that man. Listen to that man." And they’d go away and say, "Why, listen to that man." And all I was doing – I just took a notion to preach the Bible, and here are some things I find in the Bible. You listen to the Word of God; and if you will, then you won’t be discouraged, and you won’t tremble, and you won’t be afraid for whatever might happen in the future and for the horrible developments on the pages of human history.
Now, you listen to this. In Daniel – Daniel: "And the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war. Desolations are determined." That’s an actual Hebrew translation of Daniel 9:26: "and unto the end, war is determined." God wrote that in His Book. All right, look again. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus said: "Nation shall rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. There shall be famines and pestilences . . . All of these are the beginning of sorrows" [Matthew 24:7-8]. And He speaks on and on and on and on and on, and I haven’t time to read those things from the Lord Jesus [Matthew 24].
Come over here to the sixteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation: "And there came out of the mouth of the dragon three unclean spirits . . . They are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth . . . to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty . . . And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue, har magedōn [Revelation 16:13-14, 16]. The Battle of Armageddon – talk about coming into peace and coming into the millennium and coming into universal conversion! God’s Book says and the end of this thing shall be when the kings of the earth shall be gathered together in a battle called the Battle of Armageddon.
And turn over here to the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, and you find the angel calling the beast and the vultures and the creeping things to eat the flesh of the captains, and the great men, and the bond, the small, and the great because, he said, the kings of the earth and the armies gathered together to make war against Him that set on the throne and against his army – the Lord Jesus Christ [Revelation 19:17-19].
And in the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation – after this millennium – it says, "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle," to battle, "the number of whom is as the sand of the sea" [Revelation 20:8]. And that’s the last closing scene in the history of the earth. And fire comes down from God and destroys them [Revelation 20:9]. You have the great white throne; then you have the new heaven and the new earth [Revelation 20:11-21:1]. From the beginning of this Book to the end of this Book, this Book says what lies ahead is tribulation, and suffering, and despair, and war, and battle, and men’s hearts failing within them for fear of what is to come [Luke 21:26]. That’s what the Book says.
This is what man says. All right, I want to talk to you tonight – and you listen to me – I want to talk to you tonight [about] why I think it is that men say these things – why they say these things. They say these things because of the illusion of progress. For example, you go with me to the Smithsonian Institute, and we’ll walk around the Smithsonian Institute. Here’s the way they rode in an ox cart; and here’s the way they rode in a covered wagon; and here’s the way they rode in a rubber-tired buggy; and here’s the way they rode when they had a two-cylinder thing put on the buggy; and here’s the way they rode when [Henry] Ford made his T-Model; and here’s the way they rode when he came out with his A-Model. And here’s the way they ride today in these marvelous, new, hundred and ninety power hydromatic, power steering, power brakes, air conditioned – this is the way we ride today. Look at this thing of travel! There’s a jet. There’s the oil train. Look at us! The progress we’re making! The kingdom of God is at hand.
All right, again in the Smithsonian Institute, the means of communication. This is the way they used to send a message. I saw a cartoon: the postman back in the days of "Alley Oop." The postman was delivering the daily mail. He had his arms piled high with great big rocks; and they were writing notes on the rocks, and he’s delivering the mail. That’s the way they did a long time ago. Then they had cuneiform inscriptions. Then they had papyri; then they had parchment; then they had the printing press; then they had the radio; then they had television. And look at the progress we’re making in communication! The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Or, take the matter of luxuries. Way back there in the days of the Roman noblemen – way back there a long time ago, swift runners came out of the snow-capped Alps bearing ice and snow down to the noblemen’s wines tables at the banqueting in the city of Rome. And they drank wine cooled by the snow of the Alps brought by these panting runners. Long time ago, a beautiful lady, a queen, would be carried through the streets of an ancient city in a sedan chair. And at each one of the four corners of the stage, at each one, there’d be a man, a slave, and on his shoulder he’d carry the beautiful and gracious queen.
The luxuries of today: look at the refrigerators, look at our gadgets, look at our bakeries. Don’t have to bake any more. Look at our manufacturers of clothing. Don’t have to sew anymore. Don’t have to cord any more. These kids wouldn’t even know what cording is. Don’t have to straighten out the wool so you can spin it so you can weave it. Don’t have to do anything anymore. Look at the luxuries that we have. All of these marvelous things – look at them. The Kingdom of God has come.
The illusion of progress. I say the illusion of progress! Have we progressed? Over there in Israeli, I stood and leaned against a pillar, a post, in a hotel watching a modern Jewish girl. I was a little to the back and side, and she couldn’t see me. I just stood there and watched her. The day before, I had stood on the fields of the shepherds near Bethlehem where Ruth reaped in the barley fields of Boaz. Ruth, who said, "Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God" [Ruth 1:16]. I stood there where Ruth reaped in the fields of Boaz, and I stand now leaning against the post looking at that modern Jewish girl. She had a cigarette dangling between her lips, and in her hand was a little glass of liquor; and she was carrying on with a bunch of boys around her. And I looked at her, and I thought of Ruth who lived 3,150 years before her day.
Progress? Progress? Progress? We can travel better, yes! But are we going better places? We can see better, yes! But are we seeing better things? We can hear better, yes! But are we hearing noble words? Are we producing today men like Abraham, Isaiah, Peter, John, and Paul, or are we producing today the great and famous of the earth? Marilyn Monroe, the most famous. Clark Gable, the next famous. Progress? Are you sure?
Big black man in Dan Crawford’s book Thinking Black. Thinking Black. Dan Crawford, the missionary, telling the big black man all of the things he’d find in modern civilization. The big fellow, unconcerned and unimpressed, folded his arms and said, "But, sir, to be better off is not to be better." Our glorious cities of today can point to their magnificent sculptured pieces, and their glorious paintings, and their marvelous buildings; but what do you do about the sculptor, and the painter, and the builder? He is still as vile, and villainess, and wicked, and unconverted as he ever was. Progress? Are you sure? Progress.
I have to conclude. You listen to what I say. Now, you listen. You wake up. You listen. There is progress in all history. That’s right. There is development in all history. That’s right. There is progress from immaturity to maturity in all history. That’s right. But don’t forget while you are progressing, making a better automobile, making a better refrigerator, making a better television set, making a better gadget – while you’re progressing making these things that bring to us these illusions found in these messages, you are also progressing in aerial bombing. You are also progressing in the ability to disseminate political lies and propaganda over the radio to deceive half of the total population of the world and give them an illusion and a lie for the truth and make fanatical Communists out of them. You’re progressing in iniquity, and in evil, and in villainy, and in rascality, and in murder, and in blood, and in the ability to destroy as you are progressing in your automobile and in the gadgets that you have in your home.
All right, my conclusion: there is not a vestigial remnant of evidence to be found in all history that good ever overtakes evil. The thing is in a cycle; and it is vicious, and it is terrible. It was evil in the days of Abraham. It was evil in the days of Isaiah. It was evil in the days of Jesus. It was evil in the days of Paul. It was evil in the days of Charlemagne. It was evil in the days of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was evil in the days of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It was evil in the days of Hitler, and Tojo, and Mussolini; and it is evil today. And if the cycle continues to go as it has in days past, the hour will come when the whole world will be another Hiroshima – quailing, trembling before the lurid death that falls out of the sky.
There has never been a people that refused or hesitated to use its destructive weapons to achieve its ultimate gain: the gun with powder; dynamite; TNT; the atomic bomb; and the next, the hydrogen; and beyond that, the dissolution of civilization and the annihilation of mankind. History has a goal over and beyond itself. Not in history is there any measurable hope of an ultimate triumph for the peace and the glory and the salvation of the world.
"My God, and my soul, Pastor, then we face death. We face annihilation. We face want and destruction. My soul, Preacher, what a gospel. What a despair." Ah, no. I got a Book in my hand. What’d Paul mean when he said: "Knowing the time,now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand"? [Romans 13:11, 12].
What’d he mean? This is what he meant. Listen to the Lord Jesus:
There shall be signs in the sun, in the moon, in the stars; upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea, the waves roaring;
Men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
And then – and then, and then – shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh
And then shall you sing in all true and in all glory: "Honor and power and majesty be unto Him that sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever and ever" [Revelation 5:13]. "And they bowed down and worshiped Him who is King and Lord of all of the nations and people of the earth." [Revelation 5:14] So I’m not discouraged. You can’t discourage me. I am not downhearted. You can’t get me downhearted. I’m not blue, and I’m not in despair. Why? Because the Lord God omnipotent reigneth [Revelation 19:6]. And when death, and destruction, and tribulation overwhelm our earth like a flood, there He is. There He comes, and here He reigns – our Lord and our King: Christ Jesus coming in the glory of the clouds with those who have loved and adored Him in this earth [Matthew 25:31; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13].
Well, if we go home tonight, I’d better quit, don’t you think? Don’t you think? Mr. Souther, let’s sing us a good hymn; one that sings about the Lord and our belief in Him, our faith, and our persuasion in Him. Let’s sing about these things, and while we sing it, while we sing it, in this great host of people here tonight, somebody you, anybody you, give your heart to the Lord and come down this aisle and stand by me. Put your life in the church with us. "Here I am, Preacher, here’s a whole family of us. We’re here, and we’re coming." A teenager, a child, a youth, anybody you, while we sing this hymn: "Preacher, here I come, and here I am giving my heart to God and to Christ, or putting my life in the church," while we stand and while we sing.
KNOWING THE TIMES
misinterpretation of devout men.
A. Hartpence, 1858.
Compare: Nobel “Peace Prize.”
World Alliance, 1911.
Compare: The Foreign Mission Board, China after the
9:26; Revelation 16:16; 19:17ff; 20:8.
illusion of progress.
Can go –
but are we going better places?
Can see –
but are we seeing better things?
– but are we hearing nobler words?
Ruth in fields of Boaz
Dan Oraufer, “Thinking Back.”
A. Hartpence, Pastor, Presbyterian Church in Tennessee, 1858:
night of earth’s mental and moral darkness is certainly passing away. The
morning star is in the moral sky. Since
man’s creation a night of 5,860 years has rolled away; not till the present
century could Zion’s watchman see that “the night” was far spent.
the signs of progress during the last fifty years. What has been done for man’s national and temporal
interests. What progress in science and
art. What expansion and increase of
wealth and commerce! How stream and
electricity minister to human wants and happiness! What facilities for trade and travel! As the night rolls on, we see uncommon tendencies to a general
amelioration of man’s condition. The
faith of all Christendom is going to work.
and depotism are waning. The Cross
makes the Crescent give way before the march of a spiritual and pure
God wrought even the past year! Some of
the most memorable events in the world’s history were recorded in 1859. In view
of them the church can almost anticipate then song of final triumph. “Alleluia, salvation and glory and
honor and power unto the Lord our God.”
The great events of the year seem to converge upon one grand object: the
overthrow of idolatry and unbelief and the rapid spread of a pure Christianity
over the globe. The rebellion in
British India, bursting like a storm over that vast empire, threatening to
destroy English sway there, has been subdued, and treaties establishing British
rule more firmly in Asia and China have sent a flood of praise and thanksgiving
throughout the civilized world.
Old China, too, is coming God’s mercy to adore. And between isles and shouting “Jesus forever more.”
The New Citizenship:
Preface: “The present book is the reaction of
the author’s own mind to the new situationâ€¦Victory has crowned the armies of
America and her Allies. The new day has
dawned. World-peace has come. King Alcohol has been dethroned. The reign of the pot-house politician with
his graft and his greed are over.”
progress of all kinds in human history, including progress in aerial bombing,
effective use of the radio for the spreading of political lies. Progress from immaturity to maturity in
every field of endeavor. But not a bit
of evidence to prove that good triumph over evil in this constant development
of history. History a goal beyond itselfâ€¦
consummation, Luke 21:28.